Column on twins with COVID draws millions of readers, dozens of mixed comments | Opinion – TCPalm

I had an interesting, long Labor Day weekend.
I’d never communicated with so many widows in such a short amount of time.
It’d been a long time since I received so much positive feedback on something I wrote — probably about 75% of the dozens of interactions I had, including one from Uganda.
Then again, about 25% was negative, much of it hateful, bitter, ugly.
Read the original story: Identical twins: One was vaccinated for COVID, the other wasn’t, how’d they fare? Opinion
I guess that’s what to expect when your column is the top trending story on Apple News and on other national news sites, including USAToday.com, whose parent company, Gannett, owns TCPalm.
It all stemmed from a relatively simple column, a feature I did on Vero Beach identical twins, 59, who caught COVID-19. One, vaccinated, told me the story. The other, unvaccinated, died Aug. 14.
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Shortly after the column was published Tuesday on the USA TODAY Opinion page, I was told company metrics showed millions of people had read the column online.
One was a Gainesville-area woman who lost her husband, 60, to COVID-19 Aug. 2.
“It is a hard thing,” she wrote as part of a lengthy text exchange. “I pray others will listen and get the vaccine.”
Later, a woman with three children and I texted. Her 38-year-old husband had been placed on a ventilator in St. Lucie County about two weeks before.
Back then she texted me to say she appreciated the column I wrote about Dr. Moti Ramgopal. I’d written about how the infectious disease specialist texted me at 11 p.m. Aug. 18 with a simple message: “This is getting worse.”
In a phone call that night, Ramgopal talked about the long, emotional day he had, including intubating the woman’s husband.
“You can’t blame this guy for not taking the vaccine,” Ramgopal said. “He was in … perfect health.”
The other night, though, I learned the woman’s husband had died. The news left me sad and speechless.
The next day a man from North Carolina, wrote about his girlfriend, an intensive care unit nurse. He said earlier this year she had patients dying every shift.
“More recently, she’s had 75% of the total patients, including surprisingly young ones, in ICU being treated with COVID and every one of them hasn’t been vaccinated,” he wrote, noting his own relatives fought off vaccine misinformation and got COVID shots. “The strain on her and her colleagues has been terrible.”
His comments about her reminded me of two nurses who spoke emotionally in public recently about the stress and need for vaccinations: Mary Pitman, a traveling nurse from Vero Beach, and Melissa Bennett, from Cleveland Clinic Martin North Hospital.
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While I’ve told some of these folks’ stories, I’ve never to my knowledge shamed anti-vaxxers or anti-maskers. I have written about why I took a vaccine.
I still think getting the COVID vaccine is a personal decision.
The facts I’ve been hearing for months suggest it’s a much larger risk not to take it for many people. The message was made clear by officials at Cleveland Clinic, which has four hospitals on the Treasure Coast. They said it was so busy — 90% of its COVID patients were unvaccinated; almost all in the ICU — it had to delay surgeries and borrow staff from physician offices. 
Some readers of the twins column — including many anonymous ones, particularly on Twitter — read into what I wrote, assuming all sorts of nonsense.
“I was wondering how much you got paid to draft this elementary article?” wrote one man who said he was from Oakville, Ontario. “You would have made Goebbles (sic) proud with such ‘crap’.
“Congratulations on adding to the conversation and dividing people based on their desire to make a choice as to what they put in their body. Can’t wait to see your next article about pro-life and refusing abortions.”
Another one suggested 2024 would be a year of “sweet revenge:”
“So funny and pathetic that liberal trump bashing media like you just keep pumping these sad stories out,” said an email with no signature. “PROBLEM is you wont tell the real truth about how this is not the norm for those who get the chinese engineered flu.”
This person must have missed my praise of the former president in January for his efforts to fight the virus early in the pandemic and to spur Operation Warp Speed, which led to vaccines.
Several people against vaccinations sent me various claims I could not confirm. Others accurately noted, without providing context, there were reports of people dying after getting a vaccine.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that from Dec. 14 through Aug. 30, there were 7,218 reports of death (0.002% of shots given) to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.
“Reports … do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem,” the CDC said. “A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines.”
Dr. Michael Venazio, medical director of VNA Hospice in Vero Beach, on Facebook the other day noted there’d been more than 40 million COVID cases, 13.6% of which required hospitalization. About 1.6% of all cases led to death.
“Do yourself a favor, take the better odds,” Venazio said, urging people to get vaccinated.
No shot is perfectly safe. It’s a fact nurse Pitman, who treated COVID patients at two hospitals, acknowledged.
“(But) I decided there’s nothing the vaccine could do to me that would be worse that what COVID could do,” she said.
What troubled me the most were outright misrepresentations.
One local activist texted me a carefully edited video of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a tie-wearing, Trump-supporting Republican, talking about double-digit percentage increases in COVID-19 cases among vaccinated people. The headline with the video dated Sept. 5: “Vaccinated People Dropping Like Flies”.
Below the video were ads for “natural health products.”
The video piqued my curiosity, so I visited the governor’s video page. In the only recent videos I could find, the governor had no tie on and he urged people repeatedly to get vaccinated.
The headline on his latest media release: “Gov. Justice to unvaccinated: You don’t need to die and you don’t need to get sick to make a point.”
Clearly the Justice clip was edited completely out of context — deliberately, maliciously?
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I found messages from Justice, a folksy, wealthy coal mine owner and farmer, compelling. He reads the age, sex and county of each COVID-19 victim and has compared the state’s total number of deaths to cities with comparable populations being wiped out.
I never thought I’d spend my Labor Day weekend debunking baloney while listening to West Virginia’s governor.
Then again, I never thought battling COVID-19 would divide Americans as much as it has.
This column reflects the opinion of Laurence Reisman. Contact him via email at larry.reisman@tcpalm.com, phone at 772-978-2223, Facebook.com/larryreisman or Twitter @LaurenceReisman

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